Does my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that the inspectors' advice has been overruled much less often under this Government than under the last Labour Government? Will he confirm that, when their advice is overruled, careful judgment should always be exercised, especially if historic covenants are involved?
I confirm that the number of times when inspectors' advice has not been taken by the Miniser, in those cases where Ministers have decided appeals for themselves, has fallen considerably from the days of our predecessors. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning informed my hon. Friend yesterday, applications may be made to me for the discharge or modification of certain restrictions and I will, of course, consider such applications on their merit.
The other side in these cases—those who wish to make developments—is equally ferocious and sometimes just as vehement as the hon. Gentleman in complaining about not being able to obtain planning permission.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the strongest complaints from residents in my part of the world, Carshalton, and elsewhere, is that far too often the local planning authority is bereft of effective powers to control local developers? Given that his hon. Friend said in answer to an earlier question that such matters are best decided locally, will he reconsider the proportion of cases that go to appeal, as that seems to convey an unfair advantage to property developers who use the length of their purse and their determination to wear down local residents?
Ninety eight per cent. of planning permissions are given by local authorities, and only 2 per cent. result from appeals to Ministers. That puts the matter in perspective and makes it clear that local planning authorities take 98 per cent. of the decisions to grant permission. This matter must not be seen out of perspective.